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Expert look at bully tactics

Study will show how well schools cope with conflict situations

EXPERTS HAVE been drafted in to expose the best and worst examples of dealing with bullying in Wales's schools.

The independent researchers have been hired by the office of the children's commissioner for Wales to investigate school tactics over a six-week period. Their brief will be to find schools that practise active anti-bullying beyond their legal remit compared with those that have done no more than draw up a paper policy.

Their findings will form part of a major review into bullying that was started by Peter Clarke, the late children's commissioner.

Early research shows that many young victims want the bully to be dealt with firmly by their teachers, However, others are reluctant to report incidents, fearing a "big fuss" following their complaint.

An Assembly government study in 2005 found too many schools were adopting "off-the-shelf" anti-bullying policies instead of customising them to pupil needs. Many were also hauled over for failing to send policies to ministerial researchers on time, and one-third of those looked at were found to be lacking.

Mr Clarke said the findings confirmed his own concerns and announced a review from his office last year. The newly recruited researchers, who are experienced in dealing with bullying around issues of race and sexuality, will meet pupils, teachers, youth workers and other adults to see how policies are put into action.

In England this week, unions have reacted angrily to the conclusions of a Government review into bullying, saying it puts too much emphasis on paper shuffling.

The Association of School and College Leaders general secretary, Dr John Dunford, said: "The proposal that schools record every incident misses the point entirely, which should be intervention."

The commissioner's office says schools that make links with outside agencies, including theatre group, are giving the best service. But unions argue that most schools do take cases of bullying seriously. Some admit, though, that the heavy workload of staff sometimes restricts pro-active measures.

"We're looking at commitment rather than paper policy," Sara Reid, assistant children's commissioner, said this week.

"A lot of good work has occurred where pupils have helped to prevent bullying. But although policies may be wonderful, what counts is how they are used."

The review should be published as a new children's commissioner to replace Mr Clarke, who died of cancer in January, is appointed this autumn.

Respecting Others, the Assembly guidance on tackling bullying, was issued in 2003.

England's guidance, pages 20-21

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